Bay Tripper

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Those too-optimistic to-do lists

Those too-optimistic to-do lists

With my sailboat hauled for the winter, there is a startling kind of “stolen boat” hole at my slip in little Wells Cove off Spa Creek in Annapolis, which also has left a big sailing gap in my life. In the meantime, there will be much more of the boat’s wetted surface to examine during its biennial winter storage on land, which is mostly for drying-out purposes. This will create work for me, no doubt about it.

Closing out the sailing season en route to winter land quarters, I try and make the best out of what to me is an otherwise sad and prolonged interruption to a pleasant way of life that has become far more than recreational. I make a short cruise out of the ordeal, preferably at least partly under sail, even if I have to proceed in the opposite direction at some point. But this often is what sailing is all about, anyway.

This winter presented a different set of circumstances because I removed the boom and mainsail before motoring to nearby Port Annapolis Marina on Back Creek. I didn’t drop my roller-furling jib, however, because the thought of having no sail if my new 5-hp Honda 4-stroke somehow conked out was too worrisome — although highly unlikely. But we all know that, with boats, bad things often happen at the worst possible times.

Several years ago I faced a situation with no mast and no sails during a 12-mile power run from Casa Rio Marina, where my boat had wintered off the Rhode River, to Back Creek to have my repaired mast stepped. I was a nervous wreck all the way and felt insecure and uneasy with no sails as an auxiliary backup.

Chesapeake Rigging had transported my aluminum mast to its Back Creek location in order to beef up the spreader mounts, where “dimples” had formed inside the mast at a critical juncture. Owner Tom Wohlgemuth had spotted the problem during a general rigging inspection of the unstepped mast. He also recommended replacing the original (1962) chainplates.

I could not have lived happily with the rigging if those recommendations hadn’t been carried out. The rigging company also installed my Schaefer SnapFurl roller furler that would carry a new overlapping, high-cut jib from Bacon & Associates of Annapolis. Without a mast, my Sailmaster 22 seemed incredibly puny and shrunken in size, but my old Mercury outboard got me to Annapolis in short order.

Opening the Spa Creek Drawbridge for the final time in ’06, I thanked bridge tender Bob Scharf for often opening the bridge with no horn signals at all when he saw me motorsailing up the creek. With a light southerly breeze, I was emboldened to bypass Back Creek and head five miles across the Bay to the Eastern Shore and back — a leisurely jaunt I have undertaken hundreds of times under sail and have never been bored by it.

Automatically, I looked up at the masthead windvane and reached for the mainsheet, which was no longer there, to trim the mainsail, which was no longer there either. The next step would have been to kill the outboard, roll out the jib and trim that. But I have often wondered what it would be like to purposefully motor to nowhere across the Bay, in dreaded anticipation of going over to The Dark Side years hence. Testing that unpleasant situation and with some time to kill, I thought I’d do it.

I didn’t get halfway across in this staged pretense of being a powerboater when I became totally bored with nothing to do but steer. Thankfully, the wind dropped, and I abandoned the attempt with reason and headed for the haulout.

Port Annapolis Marina and Boatyard is a big DIY place with some 300 boats in land storage. A full-service facility with yard workers who can take on any job I can’t handle, it also hosts a liveaboard community, a café, shower facilities and a swimming pool. And it’s only a 10-minute sprint from my confined office space in Eastport, rather than a long haul to a distant yard as in previous years.

This winter I have decided to follow a realistic to-do list and not a wish list. That isn’t to say that boating wish projects have been deleted from my mind. These ambitious ideas will always be lurking there, only they won’t be recorded on paper with the accompanying follow-up demands to cross them out when deeds are done.

I call this paperwork my “Whoopie!” to-do list in memory of my late wife, Betty, who maintained her own “Honey-Do” list, which I mostly ignored. When I started talking about my to-do list, she would exclaim in derision, “Whoopie!”

I have maintained such nautical lists all my adult boating life for more than 35 years. Sometimes the recipient boat itself disappeared before even half the items on the list did. But another boat always came around, and, of course, this always led to a new list.

Occasionally I would force the dear, patient Betty to pay attention to my list when she asked for money. My response was that I would hand over $10 or $20, but in return for my generosity she would be required to read, aloud, all the items on the first page of my list.

It was hilarious to hear her reciting these mysterious (to her, at least) items in boatspeak that just might as well have been a foreign language. I would sometimes interrupt her recital, asking, “Now, can you please explain to me what you are reading?” She usually answered with another “Whoopie!” and a demand to get on with business by saying: “Let’s get this ordeal over with and just give me the money.”

I would sometimes continue this torment and place a multipage copy of my list in her purse or in the glove compartment of her car. When she retrieved it, she would immediately crumple it up and toss it in the trash. She saw no humor in this, but once in a while I would catch her trying to conceal a shy smile when I sprung the trap.

Back to the current list. I had thought about writing “Remove bottom paint and apply barrier coats” but thought better of it. Just a seven-word entry, barely one line on paper, but the work of doing it or the expense of having it done by the yard was major. So I will sand and paint the topsides with the roller-and-brush method, and roll on two coats of bottom paint. “Straighten out waterline” is at the top of the list.

During the layup, I know I will come up with other work that isn’t on the list. And, as has happened in the past, I will actually do this work when it comes to mind. But in a way I will cheat a little by writing down the deed after it is done, just for the satisfaction of crossing it out.

I once encountered a stranger who knew nothing of the nautical tradition of such lists. We were at a pub at the end of a long day, and I was splattered with dirt and paint. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was keeping track of my boating to-do list.

“And how long have you been working on your boat?” he asked.

“Oh, about 20 years,” I said, to which he added, “And when do you think the boat will be built?”

What a crusher of a question. “It was built when I bought it!” I explained, laughing.

Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.